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kingfisher

kingfisher, common name for members of the family Alcedinidae, essentially tropical and subtropical land birds, with affinities to trogons and swifts and related to the hornbill. Kingfishers have chunky bodies, short necks and tails, large heads with erectile crests, and strong, long beaks. Most kingfishers are carnivorous. The family is divided into two subfamilies, the fishing and the forest kingfishers, the American species being in the former category. The common eastern American belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, perches above the banks of freshwater streams and dives for small fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic insects, returning to its perch to eat. It is 12 to 14 in. (30–35 cm) long, blue-gray above and white beneath; the female has chestnut breast markings. The Texas kingfisher is green above, has no crest, and is smaller (8 in./20 cm). Of the forest kingfishers, the best known is the Australian kookaburra, Dacelo gigas, famous for its laughing cry and valued as a destroyer of harmful snakes and lizards. The related (family Todidae) colorful West Indian tody is insectivorous. The genus Halcyon, of the forest kingfishers, is the largest group, comprising some 33 species. Fishing kingfishers nest in deep burrows dug out along streams. The burrows may extend up to 10 ft (300 cm) vertically, and from five to eight eggs are laid in the chamber rounded out at the end of the tunnel. Both male and female share the incubation duties. Many forest kingfishers nest in the same fashion as the fishing kingfishers, but some, e.g., the kookaburra, never go near the water and nest in trees. Kingfishers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Coraciiformes, family Alcedinidae.

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Alcedinidae

Alcedinidae (kingfishers; class Aves, order Coraciiformes) A family of brightly coloured birds that have large heads, short necks, compact bodies, short, rounded wings, and a short tail. The bill is long, straight, and massive; the toes syndactylous. The sexes are usually alike. They are found in riverine and terrestrial habitats (the 40 species of Halcyon (the whitecollared kingfisher, H. Chloris, has nearly 50 subspecies), found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands, inhabit dry woodland and forest areas) feeding on fish, insects, and small vertebrates. The five Ceryle species, of America, Africa, and Asia, are blue-grey or black and white. The 11 Ceyx species are blue or red with red bills and are found in southern Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Australia. There are 14 genera in the family, and 84 species, of which the best known are Alcedo atthis (common kingfisher) and Dacelo novaeguineae (kookaburra). They are found world-wide.

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kingfisher

king·fish·er / ˈkingˌfishər/ • n. an often brightly colored bird (family Alcedinidae) with a long sharp beak, typically diving for fish from a perch. Many of the tropical kinds live in forests and feed on insects and lizards. Its many genera and numerous species include the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), found throughout North America.

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kingfisher

kingfisher Compact, brightly coloured bird with a straight, sharp bill. It dives for fish along rivers, streams and lakes. It nests in a horizontal hole in an earth bank. Length: 12.7–43.2cm (5–17in). Family Alcedinidae.

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kingfishers

kingfishers See ALCEDINIDAE; CORACIIFORMES.

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kingfisher

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